Christian Higher Education Since 1892

The Record Fall 2013 - President Filby's Testimony

0

Caught By Surprise

The Unexpected Encounter That Changed Ivan Filby’s Heart

Ivan Filby Speaking in Chapel“I came to faith really through no one sharing with me,” recalls Ivan Filby of the unexpected decision he made at age 17 to seriously consider Jesus Christ.

No pressing circumstances forced his decision, no looming crisis. He came from a solid home with caring, encouraging parents. He did well in school, dated a lovely girl and gained some recognition in the political arena as chair of the Young Conservative Party in his region.

“Faith was just an irrelevant part of my life,” he recalls. Irrelevant, that is, until an unforeseen encounter piqued his curiosity. The encounter caught him by surprise just as similar encounters caught others by surprise in Jesus’ day.

Surprised in an ordinary place
The Gospels tell of people experiencing change after engaging with Jesus in common places – a house, a hillside, a road. Filby’s encounter occurred in the unremarkable spare bedroom of his parents’ home.

Surprised by new imaginings
The Gospels tell of Jesus stirring people’s imaginations with vivid images like laborers in a vineyard, a shepherd in search of lost lambs, a widow offering two meager coins. Sitting in that bedroom, Filby inexplicably and vividly pictured himself in the local church he occasionally visited as a child. Two strong impressions overcame him: “One was that I needed to investigate Jesus as an adult. The second was an absolute, overwhelming desire to be pure.” Within two weeks, he led himself to Christ.

Surprised by changed values
The Gospels tell of encounters with Christ that usher in new priorities, like the tax collector Zacchaeus who committed himself to generosity. What once seemed irrelevant to Filby – the church experience he had long since abandoned – had regained importance. “Sunday school in the U.K. is not for adults. It’s just kind of a kid’s thing,” he explains. “From the age of 13 onward, faith had no place in my life. There was a cultural backdrop of faith without any active engagement.” Filby’s two strong impressions, however, ushered in a desire to actively engage his faith.

Surprised by compelling discoveries
With a growing appetite to learn more, Filby embarked on a journey to activate his faith. “I didn’t have Christian friends,” he explains. “I didn’t go to church. There was a Bible in the home. I read that somewhat. I tried to find whatever books I could. I found one at the local library called The Cross and the Switchblade; I read that. I started to go to the local church that I had gone to as a kid.” Discovery after discovery captivated and affected him. As time passed, his engagement as a Christ-follower grew.

Surprised by eyewitnesses
Friends and acquaintances that knew Filby witnessed an unfolding change. Years later when he reconnected with some of his school friends on a British version of Facebook, he was astonished to learn how his transformation had impacted others. “Three of my acquaintances came to faith because they had seen the radical change in my life,” he says. “I never knew about it until 20 years later.”

Not so surprised by God’s continual invasion Jesus Calls Fishermen
Like the fishermen disciples, Filby was not searching for God, but welcomed His “invasion” into his heart and mind. “It was just God, uninvited, coming into my life,” he says. “It was a radical transformation, without anyone trying to persuade me, without anyone trying to share with me – just the power of God doing that out of His love.”

The surprises didn’t end, though. Early this school year Filby told faculty of a time long before he ever heard of Greenville College, when he was engaged in a church leadership workshop in Dublin. The workshop intended to help people identify areas of ministry for which they were well suited. One of the exercises required that he write down his ideal job.

“I remember very clearly writing, ‘president of a Christian college.’ I looked at that thinking, ‘I’ve never thought that in my life. I don’t even know any Christian colleges. How could I possibly write that?’” The image lingered through the years, however, and factored into his prayerful pursuit of the presidency he now holds.

You can listen to President Ivan Filby's convocation address and other chapel services online or download recordings through iTunes U.